As a sommelier and travel consultant, I don’t play favorites when it comes to food. The world is literally my oyster or, rather, my cellar. The same should be said for picnics. Why limit yourself to the same old reds, rosés, or (perish the thought) moscatos?
Having tasted as many wines as I have, I find it boring to keep drinking the same wine with the same food and I actually prefer to try new styles or similar grapes from other wine countries.
Some really heavenly matches can be made by balancing fried food with Champagne bubbles or pairing a crispy, rich foods with an acidic Cava from Spain. Pairings for me are mainly case-by-case because building a good understanding of the food is crucial to find the perfect wine to connect to the experience.
Because most wine producers and marketing teams are ignorant of the vast variety of flavors, textures, and fragrances in Black food culture, few are able to wine recommendations for African, Caribbean, and Southern staples like jerk chicken, fritters of all kinds, or plantain.
Fortunately, as a Black sommelier living and working in some of the most diverse cities in the world, I have the pleasure of pairing my theoretical learning and real life experience to come up with suggestions that bring together the best of both worlds.
Below you’ll find five great wines — including bubbly, crisp, and dry variations — that will pair perfectly with the main attractions and side dishes at your next picnic or cookout. Santé!
When you’re serving jerk or fried chicken…
- Be sure to include a fresh and youthful sparkling wine like Cava Gran Reserva Brut Natural, from Spain as it complements the brined, succulent meat perfectly. Almost everyone I know has had fried chicken at their picnic at one time or another and even if you make the vegan kind, you can’t go wrong with this pairing.
- Who’s got jerk chicken on the menu? If you can’t have a cookout without this classic Caribbean dish, I’d suggest pairing it with a lovely Bordeaux, specifically, the Saint Emilion 2009 Chateau Simard, from Bordeaux, France .
When fruit is on the menu…
- Try La Fête du Rosé, Provence, France, a dry, crisp wine that balances the sweetness of a variety of fruits including watermelon and strawberries
When you’re ready for the fish fritters…
- I’d suggest Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Gneiss 2015 from Loire Valley in France. It pairs perfectly with the saltiness of this island treat.
When the fried plantains come out, try
- the Portuguese Quinta de Santiago Alvarinho 2018 at your next get together! I find that it’s a fabulous accompaniment to this sweet and salty snack.
The best thing about being a wine-lover is all the research you can do year-round, but nothing beats enjoying an exquisite glass of wine while relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends. If you’re new to wine, don’t be afraid to explore, you’ll find fall in love soon enough!